Ambassador Emmanuel Mwamba

Hating and Hurting Local Businesses

By Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba

It’s sad when policy-makers join an established tendency that expresses negative sentiments and despises local businesses in preference for foreign ones.

They call our entrepreneurs names; middle-men (yes because succeeding Governments decimated all semblance of manufacturing and industry) unreliable, untrustworthy, crooks, thieves, tendrepreneurs or give them party labels.

Let me give an example;

As Permanent Secretary in Northern Province (and Muchinga), we advertised a tender for big water projects in Nakonde, Isoka, Chinsali, Mpulungu and Kaputa districts.

The first people to rush to my office were some Members of Parliament from these constituencies demanding that the contracts should be given to Chinese companies because they were; “fast, reliable, serious and deliver on time”.

These sentiments were echoed by procurement officers and other civil servants that cautioned me; “Zambians deliver shoddy works, that if they do deliver at all”.

My point in all this was that the response to the bid document and the evaluation of both technical and financial capacity should be the basis to inform us of who was suitable to do the job.

I refused to make decisions based on unfounded prejudices and utter disdain that we treat our local businesses with.

Yes there a few indiscipline business entities but this cannot be a blanket assessment of the state of all local businesses.

It is therefore disheartening to read sentiments expressed by the Minister of Energy, Hon. Peter Chibwe Kapala, against local suppliers, and his failure to recognise the need to promote a local supply and value chain eco-system.

But this disdain and sentiments by Hon.Kapala expresses itself officially in many ways including by Law Enforcement Agencies that only pursue and investigate local Zambian businesses and will not touch those of Indian, Lebanese, European or Chinese origin that infact obtained the largest of contracts from Government.

At township or village level, a business or home shop ran by Indian, Burundese, Rwandese or Somalian will never be accused of practicing witchcraft!

Similarly we treat our professionals the same way.

While our doctors, engineers and other professionals excel in foreign lands, back home, we treat them like they should be grateful that a government exist and the sun rises from their air-conditioned offices!

Surely, where do we expect Zambians to benefit from?


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